FERN’s Friday Feed: The challenge of eating well in space

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.


“[T]he day when humanity becomes a space-native civilization, as comfortable in the cosmos as we have been on Earth,” is coming,” writes Nicola Twilley. And “while a highly trained astronaut might be able to subsist on space gorp without losing her mind, what about a civilian with a one-way ticket to Mars?” To find out, Maggie Coblentz, an industrial designer who’s part of MIT Media Lab’s Space Exploration Initiative, “is compiling a speculative guide to the kinds of culinary tools, tastes, and rituals that might help humans feel at home in space—an interplanetary cookbook.”

The global illegal pesticide trade

The Washington Post

“Along one of Latin America’s most lucrative smuggling routes, where Brazil and Paraguay share an expansive and virtually unpatrolled border, Brasil had seen every illegal good imaginable,” writes Terrence McCoy. “[N]ow, another illicit product … was increasingly appearing” — pesticides. “Over the past two decades, the trafficking of a product as seemingly banal as pesticides has quietly grown into one of the world’s most lucrative and least understood criminal enterprises.”

How ‘Great British Bake Off’ elevated bakers of color


The beloved baking competition show ‘Great British Bake Off’ has raised the profile of bakers of color against the backdrop of an “industry [that] is still failing to stack its resources behind people of color, and particularly black women,” writes Ruby Tandoh. “Amid these stagnant waters … Bake Off has become a strange vehicle for change: a cultural moment that, almost in spite of itself, metabolizes black and brown talent into something bright and new.”


Despite only a handful of cases in the U.S. so far, “fallout from the epidemic has had a major impact in American Chinese restaurants and U.S. Chinatowns from New York to Seattle,” writes Caleb Pershan. “With sudden restrictions on international travel and cancelled flights to and from mainland China, where there have been over 40,000 cases of the virus, accompanied by a rash of coronavirus panic in the U.S., these businesses are experiencing huge economic losses.”

Seeds as old as the Dead Sea Scrolls finally sprouting

The Atlantic

At a kibbutz in southern Israel, some very old seeds are sprouting. “Adam, Jonah, Uriel, Boaz, Judith, and Hannah are date-palm trees, and although they were all planted in recent years, the seeds from which they germinated all came from ancient archaeological sites,” writes Sarah Zhang. “These seeds, according to radiocarbon dating, were about 2,000 years old. They had waited two millennia to sprout.”

How Google got employees to eat their vegetables


“Google’s free food is a well-known perk, both in and beyond Silicon Valley,” writes Jane Black. But “[f]or some time now, Google has been quietly adding a (virtuous) new wrinkle to its food program: It’s no longer enough just to keep its employees happy; it’s trying to make them healthy, too. Over the past five years, the company has taken a typically Google-ish approach to the food it serves — methodical, iterative — to create the largest and most ambitious real-world test of how to nudge people to make healthier choices at mealtime.”